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WHO declares monkeypox as global emergency

Tags: Science and Technology International News

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared monkeypox disease as a "public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)", on 23 July 2022. 

It is the highest level of health alert which is issued by WHO. 

Monkeypox and the WHO decision 

  • The WHO expert committee which met in Geneva on 14 July 2022 were split on the decision whether to declare the disease as a "public health emergency of international concern”. 
  • The Director General casted his vote to break the deadlock and declare the disease as a "public health emergency of international concern”.
  • According to Tedros, at the moment monkeypox disease outbreak is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners.  
  • He said the risk of monkeypox was moderate globally, except in Europe, where the WHO has deemed the risk as high.

What is PHEIC

  • The designation of a disease as the Public Health Emergency of International Concern is the WHO's highest alert level.
  • It is based on the WHO’s international health regulations established in 2005, to define countries' rights and obligations in handling cross-border public health occurrences.
  • The WHO defines a PHEIC as "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response."
  • According to the WHO, PHEIC implies a situation that is serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond an affected country's border and may require immediate international action.

 What will be the impact of WHO DECLARATION   

  • The member countries of the WHO are legally bound to respond to the PHEIC and take appropriate steps.
  • The WHO declaration of a disease as a "public health emergency of international concern” is designed to encourage international funding to fund research against the disease and develop a vaccine or medicine. 
  • It will also help in generating public awareness about the disease.

Health Events declared as PHEIC between 2007 and 2022 by WHO: 

  • For the first time it was declared for the H1N1 influenza “swine flu” in 2009, which started in Mexico and spread across the world.
  • May 2014 for polio, following a rise in the spread of "wild polio" and vaccine-derived virus in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Besides the one for COVID-19, this is the only PHEIC still in place.
  • August 2014 for Ebola, for an outbreak in West Africa that also spread to Europe and the US
  • February 2016 for Zika(first detected in Uganda), which began in Brazil and affected mostly Latin America
  • July 2019 for Ebola, for the second time, relating to the outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
  • January 2020 for COVID-19, declared when the virus was first detected outside of China. This eventually became a persistent global pandemic
  • Monkeypox in July 2022.

Monkeypox disease 

  • Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa. It was first identified in monkeys hence it is called Monkeypox. 
  • Because it was transmitted from animal to human it is called as zoonotic disease.
  • Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with an infected person or animal’s lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.
  • There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but according to WHO the vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85% effective against monkeypox.

World Health Organisation (WHO)

  • The World Health Organisation is a specialised agency of the United Nations which was founded on 7 April, 1948.
  • Headquarters of WHO : Geneva, Switzerland 
  • Director General of WHO:  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia.
  • Member Countries : 194

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